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OC Register: New Angels pitcher Alex Cobb hopes mechanical tweak will help him reclaim form


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As he sought to rediscover himself this winter, Alex Cobb headed for a destination where so many pitchers before him had gone to take their performance to a new level.

The new Angels right-hander went to Driveline, the high-tech baseball factory in Seattle.

Although many pitchers credit work at Driveline with increasing their velocity, Cobb said he was simply looking to rediscover the mechanics from his successful years in Tampa, before Tommy John surgery and the struggles in Baltimore.

“I still feel like physically I’m capable of doing all those things,” Cobb said before the Angels workout Friday morning in Tempe, Ariz. “The ball’s still coming out of my hand well. There really are just some slight mechanical changes that I need to get back to. It just needs to click, and then once it does click, it just needs to be a matter of repeating it.”

If Cobb, 33, could repeat what he did with the Tampa Bay Rays, he would be a jolt to the Angels’ rotation.

From 2011-17, Cobb posted a 3.50 ERA with the Rays over 115 starts. In 2013-14, his final two years before surgery, he had a 2.82 ERA.

“When he was really on top of his game, you would probably take him as much as anybody else on a given day to pitch in a big game,” said Joe Maddon, who managed him in Tampa and was reunited with him when the Angels swung a deal for Cobb earlier this month.

Cobb still pitched well in his first full season after surgery, posting a 3.66 ERA with the Rays in 2017, but things started to go south when he went north. In his three years after signing as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles, he had a 5.10 ERA, including missing most of the 2019 season with injuries.

“There’s things that I could say that were causes or reasons, but at the end of the day, it went by in a blink of an eye and I just I didn’t perform,” Cobb said. “There’s things that I’ve been working on in this offseason and over the last years. I can promise you it’s never a lack of commitment or lack of effort. Things weren’t always clicking on every cylinder.”

Cobb said one of the main issues was he’d started opening up early with his lower half in his delivery, which he believes was a habit he developed to protect himself following surgery.

He said correcting that was the primary focus of his time at Driveline. The imaging technology there helped confirm for him what the issue was, and they also gave him drills to do.

“It’s hard to break old habits,” he said. “Repetition is basically my friend right now, and getting out there and doing it.”

Besides repairing the mechanics, there are at least two other reasons Cobb and the Angels are optimistic he can return to form.

He is getting out of Baltimore, where he pitched in a hitter-friendly ballpark in a division of other hitter-friendly ballparks and powerful lineups.

“Baltimore is a very difficult place to pitch,” Cobb said. “Getting out of it might allow you to become yourself easier and kind of trusting in what you have.”

Cobb needs to only look at his former and current teammate, Dylan Bundy, to see how that worked. A former top prospect, Bundy had struggled for much of his career with the Orioles, but flourished in his first season with the Angels.

“He threw more off speed and he trusted his stuff a little bit better,” Cobb said. “Talking to him, you want more. You want some secret sauce that he figured out. But I think the takeaway from that is, at the end of the day, we’re athletes. Go out there and be athletic and be competitive.”

Part of trusting your stuff is trusting when it gets hit, the players behind you will help you out, and that’s the second area in which Cobb could get a boost from the Angels.

Cobb has always been a ground ball pitcher, but last season his ratio of groundouts to flyouts was 1.20, which was one of the highest of his career. The major-league average was 0.76.

With the Angels, Cobb will pitch in front of an infield defense featuring third baseman Anthony Rendon, shortstop Jose Iglesias – who was also in Baltimore last year – and second baseman David Fletcher.

“Me as a ground ball pitcher and not a very high strikeout pitcher, I need a strong left side of the infield,” Cobb said. “With Anthony and Jose on the left side, I couldn’t ask for a better duo.”

NOTES

Maddon said the Angels are open to having Shohei Ohtani hit on the days that he pitches, and also occasionally playing in the field, but there are no concrete plans for either. Of those two scenarios, the more likely one to happen sooner is hitting and pitching on the same day, but Maddon said they’ll explore that gradually as they see how Ohtani is doing with the new, less restrictive, regimen. …

Maddon said left-hander Alex Claudio is “doing better,” but they still don’t have a firm timetable on when he’ll be back from the hip infection that will sideline him at least one to two weeks.

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37 minutes ago, tdawg87 said:

Not really.

If Cobb has a ridiculous season, like 3.20 ERA, 180 IP, 170 K, then yeah, he'll look like a genius.

I disagree. No one is expecting Cobb to pitch like an ace, or even a #2.

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2 minutes ago, tdawg87 said:

Obviously.

I'm saying Minasian is only a genius if Cobb pitches like that. I'd say he's more like lucky if Cobb is "ok".

What’s the difference? I’d say Perry’s more lucky if he pitches like a #2.... he’s a genius if he pitchers like a #4 or borderline #3.

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1 hour ago, wopphil said:

What is the team paying Cobb, $5 mil? I think if he pitches 130 innings with a 4.50 ERA, he will have been well worth the cost. 

Some of it is deferred, so the immediate cost is less. Either way, how can anyone not be more motivated playing for a playoff contender than a rebuilding team that has to play the Rays, Yankees, Sox, and Blue Jays 75 times a year? 

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On 2/19/2021 at 3:47 PM, Jeff Fletcher said:

What do you expect in spring training?

”Today Alex Cobb said he isn’t confident that he’s any good.”

I understand Jeff, but there's always an article about a pitcher finding some new pitch or fixing some mechanical issue. Excuse me if I get a bit cynical about them at this point.

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2 hours ago, Torridd said:

I understand Jeff, but there's always an article about a pitcher finding some new pitch or fixing some mechanical issue. Excuse me if I get a bit cynical about them at this point.

I get it. 
 

But the definition of news is when something has changed. We’re not going to write a story that says “Joe Blow is doing absolutely nothing different.” That would be a short story. 

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